Can you tell us a bit about your office and what it can offer the French business community?
We have engaged in numerous initiatives and activities in an effort to meet the expectations of private and institutional stakeholders, while living up to the image of Kurdistan’s renewal as a dynamic, safe region firmly focused on the future. We approached French business leaders and established contact with their most representative institutions, including the MEDEF, an organization representing the largest French companies, and UbiFrance, encompassing other mid-sized companies, along with follow-up and regular contact with the French Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry.
French firms are among the most active foreign actors in the Kurdistan Region. How has your office helped to facilitate this investment?
French companies are currently well represented in Kurdistan, but a substantial margin for expansion remains. Numerous other profitable investments are available to our French partners. The flagship firms of French industry are currently highly visible in the economic landscape of Kurdistan: Lafarge in the cement works sector, Total in energy, Orange in telecom, Carrefour & Auchan in mass-scale food retailing, and so on, but we hope to see small and medium-sized French enterprises invest more heavily in Kurdistan. Kurdistan was at one point the fruit basket and granary of the entire region; it must become so once again. Our citizens should not settle for being consumers, but must also become producers. This is possible through partnerships with French companies with the goal of acquiring their know-how and expertise, which are crucial in this phase of our economic development. For example, an agreement was signed to this effect with the French Region of Dordogne. We are also in contact with the Brittany region.
What direction do you believe the trend of French investment in the Region is heading?
We believe that France – a pioneering and highly dynamic country in the food industry – should invest more in this sector. The same is true of tourism. Kurdistan, which has enormous potential in this sector, should take France as an example in this area also, by showcasing its rich past, straddling three major civilizations, and its historical heritage, as a means of projecting itself into the future and the modern world.
How do you foresee relations between France and the KRG developing over the medium term?
Relations between France and the Kurdistan Region predate the beginning of the economic boom that our country has experienced in recent years. France was at our side during the dark years – the years of dictatorship and genocide. We shall always be grateful to this country and its people who came to our aid in the past, when we were in distress. France is the world’s fifth largest economic power and its companies rank among the world’s leading enterprises. Our relations are destined to strengthen and develop, given our position in the new emerging Middle East, and given the history of France with this region and its role as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. We have an economic and political partnership, which we must further build upon together.